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One Last Time: A Billionaire Romance (The Ironwood Billionaire Series Book 4) by Ellie Danes (1)

Chapter 1

Declan

“Congratulations! Ten big years. How’s it feel?” Vivian stood in the office doorway and stared at me with her overly white smile. “I got you a little something to celebrate.”

She padded over to my desk with the box of bourbon in her hands. It was strategically held so her breasts rested on top, with the bow perched in between them.

“Thanks,” I said with a grin. “You really didn’t need to.” I played with the ring on my hand, twisting it. It was a nervous habit, and something about Vivian made me nervous. Her five-foot-two frame made all six-foot-one of me nervous, mostly because I wasn’t sure what she would do next.

“So, can we drink it tonight?” She flipped her blond hair over her back, revealing her shoulder and neck. Then she slowly placed the box on my desk. Her cleavage was obviously showcased in the pink sundress that definitely wasn’t suitable for the office. No one seemed to mind that she didn’t follow the dress code, though.

I took a long stare and then looked up, meeting her blue eyes that had caught me stealing a glance. Vivian smiled and stood up straighter, accentuating her curves and breasts.

“Raincheck?” I said. “I have a meeting tonight with a client.”

I pushed the box of bourbon aside and grabbed the portfolio on my desk and flipped it open.

“Sounds perfect. It’s a date!” She giggled as she lingered a bit longer and then pretended to pick a piece of something from my suit. “Is this a new client?”

“It’s an athlete. I’m hoping to land an endorsement deal. We’ll see.” I walked past Vivian and headed toward the door. “Do you know if Charles is still in the office?”

“His light was on when I walked past.” Vivian followed behind as I left my office and headed down the hall of the Erikson, Inc. headquarters. “So, next week then?”

“Sure.” I quickened my pace toward Charles’s office.

Charles. My father had always insisted I call him by his first name while in the office. As if everyone didn’t know I was his son. It seemed ridiculous, but he wouldn’t even respond if I called him Dad. I did it anyway—oftentimes when I just wanted to get a rise out of him and piss him off.

When it really counted, I addressed him as Charles, and this particular instance just happened to count. A possible endorsement deal with a popular former athlete had come across my desk and I knew that my father would likely be interested in this particular individual.

Vivian continued down the hall toward the elevator, much to my relief, and had all but disappeared from my view as I approached my father’s private office. As I raised my hand to knock on the door, it opened as soon as my hand touched the cherry wood surface.

“Declan?” My father’s voice filled my ears as his piercing blue eyes met mine.

Everyone at the company said we looked a lot alike. I’d definitely inherited his deep blue eye color and thick brown hair. Also, my strong, well-defined chin and the ability to grow a perfect goatee were two other traits that were passed on to me by Charles Michael Erikson.

Another similarity was my athletic frame. Back in my college days, I was an avid football player and fan, and over the years, I’d been able to maintain my physique.

“Charles,” I replied, clearing my throat, attempting to sound more in control than I actually felt.

“Come on in,” he said firmly, briefly raising his eyes up from the paperwork on his desk. I could see that he was on a business call, and the tone of his voice made it evident to me that it was likely an important one.

I entered his office quietly, taking in the wooden bookshelves and the large metal desk he was sitting at. Sitting down in one of the leather chairs, I made myself comfortable, still watching him intently as I waited for him to finish his call. He signaled me with his pointer finger and a fervent wink of his eye.

After what seemed like forever, he finally hung up the phone and turned his attention to me.

“So, I hear that you have some good news for me, then?” he asked, brushing his graying goatee between his fingers.

“Yes.” I set the folder I was holding on his desk in front of him. “A former pro-football player. We may be able to talk him into an endorsement deal that will benefit our company and his career.”

After putting on his reading glasses, my father opened the folder and began to browse through its contents. Something about him made me feel self-conscious whenever I was in his presence. I reached up and adjusted my tie as I watched him look over the athlete’s file.

“Well, Declan, seeing as you’ll take my place as the CEO when I finally retire next year, perhaps you should be the one handling this particular deal,” he said, closing the folder and sliding it across the desk back over toward me.

A small, sly grin was playing at the corner of his lips as he eyed me with a concentrated stare.

He had been discussing this shift in ownership of the company for the past several months. I had been the president of Erikson, Inc. for the past ten years, but my dad had always been the CEO. When he announced his plan to retire a few months ago, he named me as the sole heir and future CEO of the company. Somehow, though, he made me feel intimidated by the way that he looked at me and addressed me whenever it came to important business matters and situations.

Though I’d never felt exactly inferior to him, I sometimes wondered whether or not I “measured up” to the incredibly high standards he had when it came to leadership and responsibility. Knowing that I’d have to fill his shoes one day soon was a constant reminder that it was time to for me to put my playboy days behind me and man up to the task. Not just in my business life, but in my personal life as well.

This was one of the main reasons why women like my gorgeous and overly-flirtatious assistant, Vivian, were no longer on my personal “to-do list.” A few years ago, I would’ve had her bent over the desk in my private office and probably would’ve carried on a superficial fling with her until I became bored and moved on to another hot, long-legged vixen. However, with the constant pressure I’d been getting from both of my parents to settle down and start acting like an adult, I’d had to stifle my boyish, superficial passions and start looking for a more meaningful relationship with a woman of actual depth.

Believe it or not, though, for a wealthy businessman like myself, that had actually been more difficult to find than anything else in my luxurious, sumptuous little world.

My father founded Erikson, Inc. nearly twenty years ago, and he and my mother built the company from the ground up. The patents the company invented on footwear and clothing technology helped them turn it into a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate within the first five years. Ten years ago this week, I’d graduated from Yale with a master’s degree in business management, and my father made me the company president. That was why Vivian had been so adamant about celebrating with the bourbon.

Now, at thirty-five years old, I was preparing to take over as CEO, and my father was giving me more responsibility than ever, yet his expectations had not wavered in the least.

I thanked him for the opportunity and stood up to leave his office. Just as I was about to walk out the door, he called out to me one last time.

“Declan,” he said sternly.

I turned around to face him with my hand still on the doorknob.

“Yes, Da—er—Charles?” I replied, stammering over my words like a nervous, bumbling schoolboy.

“Don’t let me down, son,” he warned, winking. Had I not known any better, I’d have taken it as a playful, friendly comment. But, having been the only son of CEO Charles Michael Erikson, I absolutely knew better than to think that.

“Yes, sir,” I replied coolly, and then let his office door shut behind me.

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